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America First

Many who are accused of "blaming America first" are guilty only of loving their country.

by James Leroy Wilson
August 14, 2008

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America First
The war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia highlights the impotence of U.S. foreign policy. The United States protests, but can do nothing even as Russia violates cease-fires.

So America is a superpower, how?

Its military is overstretched. Its budget deficit has broken record and its national debt is nearing $10 trillion. Its foreign policy has no moral authority or credibility: we invaded Panama and Haiti, bombed Serbia, and destroyed Iraq, all without authorization from the United Nations and when no American lives or vital interests were at stake, yet we condemn Russia for protecting fellow Russians on its own border?

Conservatives, especially those of the "neo" type, may think this will be an "anti-American" piece. Here is the irony of their position: they accuse those who support a "humble foreign policy" (which was, ironically, part of George W. Bush's 2000 campaign rhetoric) for "blaming America first" whenever a crisis arises, but for me and many others, the attitude is not "blaming America first" but rather, simply, "America First."

In context, Joseph Sobran isn't writing as an "America Firster," but this explains the America First position very well: "You love your country as you love your mother — simply because it is yours, not because of its superiority to others, particularly superiority of power."
 
To an America Firster, the love of the country, meaning its people, its natural beauty, its customs, and its idiosyncrasies, comes first. Yes, its political system and laws have (or may have once had) some appeal as well, but mainly in comparison to the government-induced poverty and oppression once seen in almost every other country in the rest of the world, something far less true today. The system and laws actually weren't all that great, but we could still once say "aren't we lucky?" To an America Firster, the government should serve the people of the country, not be their master.  And it certainly shouldn't be a slave to a global agenda or universal ideology.

To neo-conservatives and liberal internationalists, America is loved because it's a Democracy. To an old-fashioned conservative, or Old Rightist, or America Firster, it is loved because it is where we live. We don't want to see our children dying overseas, and our families and neighbors impoverished, just to serve an abstract idea.

Therefore, prudence and realism guides America First policy. Not ideology, not moral outrage, not "American Exceptionalism," and not the default assumption that international norms regarding the rules of war that should apply to other countries ought not apply to ours. 

It's funny how supposed "liberals" and "conservatives" say positive things about what America stands for, and pander to voters by saying nice things about the American "people," yet they say very little that is positive about American civil society. This, the "real" America, is what they despise most, because they can't control it. To the liberal, it's too greedy; to the conservative, it's too immoral. To the moderate with puritan leanings, these two problems merge into one word: "consumerism." According to them, civil society just can't behave itself and needs government to "fix" it, so that it better reflects their ideals and ideology. When government intervenes in civil society with unintended consequences, the excuse was that government lacked sufficient money and power, and the solution is to increase both.

But civil society provides better goods at lower prices, whereas government increases the money supply and causes inflation.

Businesses in civil society see profit in serving the people via the market, unless government contracts guarantee even greater profits. In that case, businesses become corrupt.

Civil society can ruin an unethical business through a boycott; government can destroy the life of one guilty only of misfiled paperwork through fines and prison sentences.

Civil society values peace and prosperity; government relishes war and the quasi-religious rhetoric of "sacrifice."

America Firsters have the interests of the American civil society at heart; liberals and most conservatives have the interests of government employees and ideological extremists at heart.

America Firsters also know that people in other countries love their own homeland as much as we do ours, and that diplomacy is the key to peace; politicians demonize foreign countries that don't go along with their foreign policy. These foreign leaders are called evil, and our politicians take out their anger on foreign civilian populations through economic sanctions and all-out war.

Isn't it funny how those who love America the most are accused of being "unpatriotic" and of "blaming America first?" We don't blame America, only the political process that puts in power those who commit us to economically unsound programs and and unjust, unwinnable wars.

America never could afford to sacrifice her honor and reputation by meddling in overseas conflicts, her government only assumed she did. But even that day has passed. War with Iran has been threatened for three years, yet it hasn't happened because America is just too weak. And now Russia can do whatever it wants - vindicate just claims (if there are any) and go beyond and commit unjust aggression (if this is true) - but America can't lift a finger, and Russia knows it.

America's impotence in the face of the Russo-Georgian War may actually be a blessing in disguise. By exposing the limits of American power and influence, perhaps America's political leaders will be forced into that "humble foreign policy." Perhaps her dire economic outlook will force fiscal restraint and monetary reform. Perhaps this in turn will force greater freedom in energy development and health care. Perhaps everyone from neoconservatives to socialists to the cultural intoleristas of all stripes will realize that there's nothing they can do; the money and popular will just aren't at their disposal anymore.

When the ideologues of all stripes are finally "mugged by reality," civil society will win. Liberty will win. America will win.

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